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posted: 11/8/2012 12:11 PM

Random thoughts as long campaign finally ends

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• An election question, or perhaps more accurately line of questions, I cannot reconcile: If everyone is so bitterly outraged by the sleazy innuendo and purposeful distortion of negative political campaigning, why are candidates so quick to embrace it? The obvious answer is that it works. But again, why -- if everyone is so turned off by it?

In races at every level, campaigns this fall were predominantly bulit not on reasons to support a given candidate but on reasons to fear -- or often revile -- the other guy. And the candidates went to some length to construct complicated distortions about the records, statements or personal circumstances of their opponents. One wonders how these candidates look themselves in the mirror after some of the things they've said or allowed to be said about their opponents, knowing very well that the insults are not just indiscreet and ill-mannered but patently untrue.

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And one longs for the candidate who can figure out a way to eschew such mischief entirely -- and still win.

• It is tempting to blame all this on SuperPACs, and the influence of the mercenary wealthy certainly cannot be discounted. But pretending to hold the high ground while one's friends disparage and slander his opponents is an activity almost as old as democracy itself. In the infamous election of 1800, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams stayed home while their political friends threw out the vilest claims of cowardice, debauchery and treachery about the two men. Just imagine if they'd had Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

• Are we newspapers and other news media passive enablers or, worse, active encouragers? To expect us to parse their advertising before accepting it beyond the broad standards we already apply requires, among other things, making us the arbiters of public taste and sets both us and politics in general on an extremely slippery free-speech slope, but is there more we can do or not do to discourage the rain of insults, half-truths and outright deceptions?

• At least this election cycle "fact checking" took its place in the common vernacular. The Daily Herald has been fact checking local political claims for years, but this year, the process went viral. Maybe it will have an effect -- though it's an activity that's next to impossible to employ when that flood of nasty ads hits in the final weekend before the vote.

• Still think the Daily Herald pushes a liberal agenda? Consider these numbers related to our political endorsements. Of 39 state and national races in which we endorsed, we recommended 25 Republicans and 14 Democrats. For Congress, we endorsed four Republicans and three Democrats; for state Senate, five GOP and six Democrats; for state House 15 and four. One can, as they say, read anything he wants into statistics, so I'm not sure what these numbers say. I do think, though, they suggest we are thoughtful.

• I hate political polls, and I'm glad the Daily Herald attempts to minimize coverage of them -- which was nearly impossible this election cycle because of the incessant, varied polling that itself became a part of the election story.

• We grumble a lot around here about the challenges of covering an election, but I can't think of anyplace I'd rather be on Election Night than in a newsroom.

• Which I guess I'll get to enjoy again soon enough. Filing begins in about a month for municipal and school elections. If you really care about your community and your quality of life, those are the races that matter, and you won't hear much about them anywhere else than here in your local newspaper.

Jim Slusher, jslusher@dailyherald.com, is an assistant managing editor at the Daily Herald. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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